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Klavers van Engelen installation photographed by M
Klavers van Engelen installation photographed by Mirjam Boekholt

Arnhem: Fashion's New Capital

Dazed takes a trip to Arnhem: a Dutch city making things happen with a directional, show stopping fashion event that’s worthy of design fans worldwide.

Arnhem is a tiny, quirky little city that lives and breathes fashion. Famous for its high profile art academy ArtEZ (it would be silly not to mention that Viktor & Rolf are the school’s most famous Alumni) the city, pretty much off the international fashion radar until now, is putting itself on the map by hosting the Arnhem Mode Biennale. The event kicks off every two years and although this is only the third instalment, the creative team are upping the stakes by shifting the festivals scale to a bigger and better one that might just make it one of the fashion events to look forward to.

To paint a better picture, the festival engulfs the whole city with exhibitions dedicated to Dutch and other European designers littering the quiet, tiny streets Arnhem plays host to. The main pull is the far more international, much larger exhibition built in and around the city’s Cathedral. Step inside and it’s far from churchlike, with over 50 designers contributing installations, short films, pieces and ideas to the Biennale, it looks more like a warped, high fashion world protected by never-ending walk ways of scaffolding.

With big brand names like Calvin Klein, Martin Margiela, Hussein Chalayan, Balenciaga, Giambattista Valli and of course, Viktor and Rolf having all donated key pieces, there’s plenty to look forward to but it’s the full on installations from the big guns that really make the event worth it. Rick Owens takes visitors to a John Waters-esque world with a pitch black, leather clad room showing a black and white short film featuring a drag queen in a wheel chair (naturally) and in total contrast to this, Lanvin Hommes touching take on a teenage boys bedroom should be two of the first port of calls.
British milliner Stephen Jones has also lended his talent to the event with a quintessentially English Green House installation "I wanted to do something quite quirky and eccentric. A sort of typically country greenhouse to represent my work," the designer explains as we fittingly shopped for flowers in Arnhems busy market "I was more than happy to get involved with the event as I think it’s doing things in a different way and that needs to be noted."

With over two million euro invested in it, tottering around the exhibition feels more like stepping on to a film set at times (the human mannequins were created by the same talent responsible for creating the prosthetics for The Lord of The Rings) and with Holland’s Princess Maxime present at the Biennale’s opening fashion show, this is an occasion the whole country seems to stand still for (a trip to the local newsagents to witness the countless headlines covering the opening proved this).

Curated by famed fashion illustrator Piet Paris, there’s a feeling that the Biennale wouldn’t quite work in say Paris, London or Milan. Arnhem is not a cosmopolitan city, it’s a small hub that seems to have dedicated itself to the arts and it’s that very fact that makes the Arnhem Mode Biennale so inspiring.

The event runs until the July 6. More details at Arnhem Biennale website.